Guest Author - Deborah Crawford
Often our desks get messy and our to-do lists get too long and living amidst all that mental and physical clutter wrecks our productivity. Which results in our desks getting messier and our lists getting longer. Here’s how to stop all that whirling dervish behavior in its tracks. Using these quick-start productivity tips, you can clear your desk, make a fresh start and gain control of your workspace.
1—Grab a legal pad, a stack of file folders and a good pen. You’ll also need a trash can, and whatever labeling system you use for file folders. A regular marker works just fine and is fast. Oh, and put on some music that pumps you up.
2—Take everything off your desk. Make a big pile in the floor (you can use your desk if you’re not a floor person, but you get much more working room on the floor) of all the papers, books, receipts, business cards, magazines, and whatever else is cluttering your desk. Make a separate pile for non-paper things like pens, reading glasses, gum, earphones, and so on. (Put all these into some sort of container for now.)
3—Quickly, clean your desk surface with a cloth and appropriate cleaner. Clean your monitor, keyboard, phone and whatever else stays there permanently. Do not get bogged down in disinfecting every crevice. Clean it and move on.
4—Get to the pile! Resolve that you are going to get through your pile today. No excuses. If you stay up till midnight, that’s fine. Truly, it should only take a few hours regardless of how daunting it may look.
As you go through your paper clutter, you want to think in terms of what to trash, what to file and what to do. That’s really all we do with our paper stuff anyway.
What to trash:
In most cases, most of what is in the pile can be trashed. Anything you can easily reproduce or find on the off-chance you need it again can be thrown away. Anything you would like to do but truly are not going to do can be trashed—like fill out the warranty card for your new blow dryer. Forty rough-drafts of anything can certainly be trashed. Old grocery lists, candy wrappers and the like—trash!
What to file:
File things you know you will need again but not anytime soon. Tax-deductible receipts, useful instruction manuals (many are online now, so some of them can even be tossed), recipes, completed project documents, and your kid’s essay all need to be filed. Don’t mistake trash for filing! It’s really easy to try to keep everything, but if you can live without it or reproduce it, then throw it away. Avoid creating “miscellaneous” or “to-file” files. Both are actually just piles inside folders!
What to do:
As you are going through your piles, you will come across many things “to-do”. Odds are that many of the items lying around are things you need to or want to address in some way. Instead of creating another “pile”, use the legal pad and pen to make a not on your “To-do” list. List absolutely everything on the list, and then create a file for the corresponding paperwork. Here are some tips on how to do this:
--You find a business card of a colleague you need to send something to. Make a note, then put the business card where you keep business cards (I use a large notebook with plastic inserts). When you come to that item on your to-do list, you’ll know where the card is to look up her address or phone number.
--You clipped an article on building a career wardrobe that you want to take when you go clothes shopping. Write on the list “Shop for new suit—take article.” File the article.
--You find several articles on marketing tips that you want to read and see if you can use some in your business. Put on your list “Work on marketing ideas—pull article file” and then create a “Marketing Tips” file.
This way, you are putting every piece of paper that you are keeping into a file or a trash can. If you then put the files into a filing cabinet or crate, you will be much more organized. And, having all that clutter off your desk, and a complete to-do list will renew your spirit, refresh your motivation and even build your self-esteem. Now, all you have to do is tackle the to-do list—but you’ll be doing so in a much more organized, systematic and productive way. Crossing those items off is so much fun!
Do a mini clean-up at the end of every work day using these same three categories—trash, file, to-do—and the cluttered desk will be a thing of the past.
You can get some of my favorite desk organizing supplies from Amazon:
These filing boxes are handy and portable (Each of my projects gets its own box) and these folders are recycled and bright!